Who says Red Sox owner John Henry isn’t active enough in his team’s affairs?
Several club sources have confirmed that Henry recently took the reins in Fenway Sports Group-owned NESN’s search for a successor to the infinitely popular Heidi Watney, who confirmed last month that she’s moving back to California.
“The Red Sox front office has heard all the grumblings from fans that Mr. Henry is diverting too much attention to other business endeavors, such as the soccer team in Liverpool. But that’s simply not the case. John’s instrumental role in the search for new on-field talent for NESN is a perfect example,” said a NESN spokesperson.
While Boston Sports Media Watch ventured a respectable list of possible Watney replacements on Monday, Henry’s tireless pursuit of talent seems to suggest that the potential slate of candidates is quite a bit meatier than just names already known within the television industry.
The affable team owner may have employed a “hands-off” approach to the lengthy search for a new manager, which was reportedly close to completion as of Tuesday morning. However, it would seem that Henry believes he may find a diamond-in-the-rough or at least a girl-next-door who could be molded into on-air talent if afforded with the right opportunity.
And, yes, Henry knows a thing or two about finding broads at watering holes. He met his current wife, Linda Pizzuti, at a bar in the Liberty Hotel and famously won her heart by writing her an endearing letter. Pizzuti is believed to be all-in on Henry’s search for a Fenway star as long as it does not interfere with his exploitation of corn futures.
For their part, fans also seem to be responding positively to the news that their beloved owner is taking such an active interest in the team’s lengthy offseason chore list. In particular, female bar goers in the Boston area seem to welcome the added scrutiny.
“He’s kind of creepy when you first notice him lurking in the corner,” said Worcester product Laura Taylor at M Bar in the Mandarin Hotel during a recent night in which Henry was spotted. “But, yeah, it would be fun to be on television. I may have unbuttoned a couple of buttons once I noticed him in the corner sipping on a dry martini.”
As fans may recall, former Sox GM Theo Epstein once ate Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling’s family. So this isn’t the first time the Red Sox have used the “wine-and/or-dine” tactic to assemble a team. However, it is presumably the first time the team has employed the technique to acquire non-roster talent.
Said one club official: “We can say for certain that this is the first time in this ownership group’s tenure that we’re expressly angling toward a home-grown product.”
Confirmed another team source: “Tina Cervasio and Heidi Watney were carpetbaggers who predictably split town after a few years. We think signing someone local will give us the long-term stability we’re lacking in that part of the organization.”
And, really, what better way to find local talent than to plumb the city’s bustling night clubs and lounges?
Some scouts, however, remain skeptical that the Red Sox will be able to merely plug in a cheap, relatively unknown replacement into such a prominent role as Watney’s.
“Who do they think they’re kidding? On-field interviews and features on ballpark cuisine are high-leverage, pressure-packed situations,” said one long-time scout. “That type of spot requires a certain level of raw talent that simply doesn’t grow on trees. You’re better off paying for a known commodity with the experience and the know-how.”
Nevertheless, the Sox owner is reportedly undeterred. But aspiring on-field journalists beware: John Henry may be able to see you, but you may not be able to see John Henry.
“A lot of it is being done under the cloak of clever disguise…” said one Henry assistant requesting anonymity. “Believe it or not, there are some women out there who get gussied up and show up at ritzy bars simply to meet rich men who can make them feel financially secure. John needs to know that whoever replaces Watney is indeed sincere about the important things – like getting Kevin Youkilis to speak to her after a walkoff, bases-loaded beaning.”
Clubhouse sources would not comment on anyone else’s involvement in the vetting process beyond Henry.
But Sox fans seem to feel strongly that multiple front offices executives would only serve to gum up an already tall task.
“Larry Lucchino better not be holding up the process with whatever weird fetishes he happens to have,” said Nathan Prince after swearing he spied Henry during a recent night at the bar at Bond in the Langham Hotel.
“I mean, let’s be honest. It’s six in one; half a dozen in the other. I trust Mr. Henry’s judgement on this,” said a Sox fan last night at Lolita Tequila Bar. “As long as the new girl can post a lineup on Twitter and stay out of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s pants, I think Sox fans will be happy.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia declined comment for this story.